When the New York Yankees decided not to offer former starting catcher Russell Martin a contract worth more than what he received from the Pittsburgh Pirates, all hell broke loose among the pinstripe fan base. The team then decided not to pursue free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski or any starting catcher. The team had decided they would solve their catching issues from within, announcing that last season’s back up, Chris Stewart, 2009-2011 backup Francisco Cervelli and prospect Austin Romine would battle it out for the starting and backup jobs. The team has stressed that as long as the winner could handle the pitching staff and do the job defensively, that’s all they’re looking for out of the catching position for 2013.
With Opening Day a little over three weeks away, it seems as if Stewart and Cervelli will be the catching tandem for the Yankees. Romine has already been optioned to AAA. The question now for the Yankees is who will be the starter and who will be the backup. So far, both men’s performance is making the decision hard on manager Joe Girardi.
While the Yankees aren’t worried about the offensive output of either men, Chris Stewart has been swinging a good bat this spring. In eight games and 18 at-bats, Stewart is hitting at a .278 clip with a homerun, a double a three RBI. For his career, Stewart has never been much of a hitter, as his .217 average over parts of six seasons indicate. However, he did post a respectable .241 average last season in 55 games played.
Meanwhile, Cervelli hasn’t shown much at the plate, hitting for just a .227 average over nine games and 22 at-bats. Over his career though, he’s proven to be a better hitter than Stewart, with his .271 career average being 54 points higher than Stewart’s. Where Cervelli has impressed this spring is with his work behind the plate. While both men have yet to commit an error this spring, Cervelli has shown off a canon arm. While Stewart has allowed four out of a possible six base stealers to swipe a bag against him, Cervelli has thrown out five of seven possible base stealers.
If the Yankees are true to their word and value defense more than offense from their catcher’s this season, then Cervelli may have the edge over Stewart. He’s been the better defender so far this spring and has shown over his career to be the better hitter. Maybe Yankees fans won’t have to worry about their catching situation for 2013 at all.